Prison writing workshop sponsorship


All About Writing was contacted to help a group of inmates in Zonderwater Prison near Cullinan realise their writing dreams. We’ve teamed up with our associates and friends, psychologist Pierre Brouard and English language writing specialist Helen Webster, who are running the programme. The workshops are going very well. The group is graduating on 11 April and a series of fascinating stories have emerged. Pierre and Helen have thrown themselves into the project, devoting simply enormous amounts of time to the work, from designing the course, to traveling to Zonderwater once a month to facilitate the workshops, to typing up the handwritten stories.

See Pierre’s report below.

We’re seeking contributions to help fund this project, in particular to pay for Pierre and Helen’s transport costs getting to and from Zonderwater and we’d really like to give them honorariums. We’d also like to take the project further and develop a training manual. If you believe that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, have the right to tell their stories, then please donate, however little. It’s easy to do so and we would be most grateful for your support.



Report back from writing trainer and facilitator Pierre:

The circle of orange jackets tells one story. The fact that everyone’s shoes are different tells another. Running a writing workshop inside a prison arouses many emotions and curiosities: the uniforms bring discipline, mark the prisoners as other, and reduce their individuality. The shoes have other stories attached to them: complexity, inequality and uniqueness are revealed by the array of sneakers, slippers and slips ons.

We, Helen Webster and Pierre Brouard, are running a series of writing workshops at Zonderwater Prison outside Cullinan. An organiser of the prison’s reading group, contacted All About Writing, asking if they could teach the group some writing skills to tell their stories. The prison authorities embraced the idea, agreed to it as a pilot project, and if it works it could be extended to other prisons.

We have a trainee social worker in the room with us. She is using this as an opportunity to write up what we are doing, and is also a bridge between us and the somewhat mysterious workings of prison life. The room we’re in is tiny and the plastic chairs are squashed in a vague semi-circle. The flip chart stand has been discarded because one leg won’t work and every now and then an inmate drops the file of notes we’ve given them because there are no tables.

We manage to block it all out: the clanging gates, the noisy corridors, and the rather bleak institutional walls and floors. We’ve run two sessions already, and the learning curve is steep, for them and for us! But everyone is keen, the four-hour sessions go in a blur, and  we are optimistic that something good is going to come from this.

All About Writing hopes to publish the stories the inmates will tell – yes these men have transgressed society’s norms, but many of their stories are universal: lost love, opportunities missed, mistakes made, dreams of something better. We’re both learning a great deal from this, about ourselves, about each other, and about how to work creatively in a complex context. We’ll keep you posted!

Additional information

Donation type

Donation R20, Donation R50, Donation R 100, Donation R 500, Sponsor an inmate R1200


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